Parents play multiple roles in recognizing and preventing bullying. Bullyproof has collected the following resources to help parents learn more about the different types of bullying, the effects of bullying and how bullying can be prevented.
What is bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
Cyberbullying may be more difficult to detect because of lack of familiarity with the various technologies and the anonymity provided by those technologies.
Additional cyberbullying resources:
- Child Internet Safety Guide
- Internet Guidelines for Families
- Facebook's Family Safety Center
- Reporting Bullying on Facebook
- Cyberbullying Terms (Glossary)
- Acronyms & Abbreviations (Glossary)
- Smileys & Emoticons (Glossary)
Who is at risk?
Sadly, every child is at risk for being bullied and many are at risk of becoming a bully. It is also important to remember that bystanders often experience the psychological & physical efforts of bullying. Although the following list is not exhaustive, victims of bullying often have one or more of the following risk factors:
- They are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, disabled, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider "cool"
- Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
- Are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
- Are less popular than others and have few friends
- Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
Parents should also be aware of factors that increase the probability a child is or, or may become a bully. To learn more about the factors that increase the likelihood a young person will become violent:
What are the effects of bullying?
The effects of bullying are widespread and can even extend into adulthood, creating higher risks of mental illness. For example,
Youth involved in bullying, victims and bullies alike, tend to struggle academically, be less well-adjusted in school and beyond, have low self-esteem, and have poor social problem-solving skills.
Additional information about the effects of bullying:
- Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects Into Adulthood (video)
Is your child a bully or a victim of bullying?
Not all children who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help. As a parent, it is important that you look for warning signs that your child is a bully or being bullied, but it is equally important that you keep in mind that not all children will exhibit warning signs.
What can you do if you suspect your child is a bully or being bullied?
As every parent knows, every child is different and every situation is different. There is no "one size fits all" resolution to bullying. However, careful observation and application of known characteristics and traits will go a long way in helping you address bullying. The following are examples of actions that you may consider and resources discussing each.
1. Address the issue with the bully/victim and/or his/her parents:
- How to Talk about Bullying
- Bullying Prevention and Intervention Strategies for Families
- What to Do If Your Child Exhibits Bullying Behaviors
- Addressing Bullying Among Small Children
- Advice for Parents from Stop Bullying Now
2. Address the issue with school administration:
- Ask to review the school's bullying policy. If there is not one in place, take an active role in having a policy established (Information about the various aspects of bullying policies).
- Request that bullying awareness programs be added to the curriculum (Information about the various programs and curriculum publicly available).
- Many times educators and administrators are simply not aware that bullying is taking place. It is important to bring it to the attention of the appropriate individual (sample letter, allowing you to document that the school has been put on notice of the situation).
- Three Steps to Take If Your Child is Being Targeted by Bullying at School
3. Address cyberbullying:
By its nature, cyberbullying is often more difficult to address: its perpetrators are shielded in virtual anonymity. However, there are steps that you can take.
- Do not forward or respond to cyberbullying messages and communications. Instruct your child to do the same.
- Keep evidence of the cyberbullying. Document the dates, times, and details when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages. You can then use this evidence to report cyberbullying to internet and cell phone service providers and, in some cases, law enforcement.
- Many social media sites have ways that cyberbullying can be reported. Links to several can be found below.
- If the cyberbullying originates from or relates to the school environment, report it to the school. Because cyberbullying is often related to in-person "offline" bullying, it is important that the school be aware of the situation so that it can take steps to prevent any further occurrences.
- In some instances, it may be appropriate, and necessary, to report cyberbullying to law enforcement. Some states consider other forms of cyberbullying criminal. Consult your state's laws and law enforcement for additional guidance.
- Confronting Hate Speech Online
- Methods of Helping Kids of All Ages Stand Up to Cyberbullying
- Talking to Teens about Online Harassment
- Reporting Bullying on Facebook
- Abusive Behavior on Twitter
- Instragram's Tips for Parents
4. Contact law enforcement:
Often, conduct that constitutes bullying, such as physical assault, violent threats, invasion of privacy, and harassment, is also criminal. Contact law enforcement if you believe a crime has occurred.
Additionally, you can consult your state's laws and law enforcement.
How can bullying be prevented?
Parents play a very important role in preventing bullying and there are many things that parents can do that will help, such as:
- Talk to your child about her school day - every day.
- Learn the signs of bullying and, if you suspect your child is a bully, a victim, or a witness to bullying, talk to your child's teacher(s), administrators, other parents if appropriate, and other adults regularly in contact with your child.
- Volunteer at your child's school to get an idea of the school's atmosphere and what you might be able to do to make it safer.
- Work with teachers and administrators to ensure that adequate anti-bullying policies are in place and that students are made aware of the policies.
- Create a School Safety Committee or other group made up of a mixture of teachers, administrators, and parents to discuss bullying issues and collectively create intervention and prevention strategies.
- Talk to your child about cyberbullying and educate yourself on the various types of technology used to perpetrate cyberbullying.
For a great overview of intervention and prevention techniques, check out the Youth Voice Research Project, the first known large-scale research project that solicited students' perceptions about strategy effectiveness to reduce peer mistreatment in schools.